By Scott Cacciola
The Super Bowl always draws crowds to betting windows and online sportsbooks, but some of the most talked about action this year will leave a blank space in Las Vegas.
With in-person sportsbooks limited to action on the field, Adam Burns, the sportsbook manager for BetOnline.ag, found himself capitalizing on the moment by preparing odds for a flood of unusual wagers: What sort of outfit will Taylor Swift wear to the game on Sunday? Will the CBS broadcast show her holding a beverage or giving high-fives? Will she cry if the Kansas City Chiefs lose to the San Francisco 49ers?
For some much-needed assistance, Burns turned to a reliable source: his teenage daughter.
“Friends are like, ‘Come on over and watch the game with us,’” Burns said in a telephone interview from his home in Montreal. “I can’t. I have to watch Taylor Swift. You can ask me the next day who won the game, and I won’t even know. But I’ll know how many times Taylor Swift was shown on TV.”
Swift, who won two Grammys on Sunday night and announced the release date for her next album, was a phenomenon long before she started dating Travis Kelce, Kansas City’s star tight end. But her regular appearances at his team’s games this season — clad in red, celebrating Kelce’s touchdowns, and even sharing a luxury box with his bare-chested, beer-swilling brother — have produced crossover magic with the NFL.
BetOnline.ag, which is based in Panama, has so many Swift-related Super Bowl prop bets — 89, a reference to her album “1989” — that Burns had to plumb the depths of the absurd, including: What shade of lipstick will Swift choose for the game? (Red, a signature color for Swift, is favored, followed by “any other color.”)
Bet U.S., an online casino based in Costa Rica, also has a smorgasbord of Swift-related bets.
“If it’s something that’s going to attract some attention and we can make legitimate odds on it, there’s a good chance that we’re going to do it,” said Tim Williams, the director of public affairs for Bet U.S. He added: “We expect to see as much interest, if not more interest, in all of these Taylor Swift bets compared to bets related to the halftime show, and that’s really unprecedented.”
The Swift-related bets will almost entirely be online because most sportsbooks, including those in Nevada, are required by their local gaming commissions to limit sports wagering to what happens on the field of play: receptions, rushing yards, interceptions.
“Anything that can be found in a box score,” said Jeff Benson, the director of operations for Circa Sports, a Las Vegas sportsbook.
That means novelty bets are out. No betting on the number of backup dancers during Usher’s halftime show. No betting on the length of the national anthem. And no betting on Swift’s choice of game day attire, assuming she makes the trip to Las Vegas from Tokyo. Of course, none of that has prevented people from trying to place the bets in person.
“I wanted to put an over/under on how many times we’re asked about them,” said Jay Kornegay, the executive vice president of race and sports operations at Westgate Resorts. “Customers and even some of our own executives are unaware we can’t do them. So we have to tell them, and they’re like, ‘Oh, really? That’s too bad.’”
A few casinos have gotten creative. One has a wager called “Shake It Off,” which involves betting on a player to score a touchdown after fumbling earlier in the game. But that is about as far as Las Vegas can go, since novelty bets are difficult to regulate. Some people, for example, will be apprised of Swift’s plans ahead of time and could conceivably make wagers. Gambling sites that do offer novelty belts tend to guard against bad actors by setting low limits — $100 to $250 in most cases.
“It’s more for fun,” Burns said. “We’re not trying to make a buck off this. Honestly, we’ll probably lose on a lot of these because it’s a real challenge for us to keep up with this stuff. Like, I don’t know what color lipstick she’ll wear.”
Sports betting typically comes with a host of disclaimers. Don’t bet where it’s illegal. Don’t bet more than you can afford to lose. And, as it pertains to Swift’s involvement in Super Bowl LVIII, don’t bet without seeking input from experts.
Want to throw a few bucks on Swift wearing a championship hat if Kansas City wins?
“It depends how cute the hat is,” said Julia Bennet, the president of the Taylor Swift Society at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida.
On a video conference call last week, Bennet and three other club leaders — Kathryn Brown, Kinsey Perkins and Mara Lytle — offered some insight. No, they don’t think Swift will cry if the Chiefs lose. (“She’s tough,” Brown said.) Yes, they think she will be in red at the game. (“I’m thinking red top, black bottoms,” Bennet said.) And no, they don’t think there will be an on-field proposal.
“If my friend married someone after six months, no matter how great they are, I would be like, ‘Are you sure?’” Bennet said. “She’s in her 30s, and I’m a human development major, so I know your brain’s developed a little more by then. So I would trust her decision. But I still think it’s too soon for a proposal.”
While Bennet and her friends acknowledged that they were not huge football fans — Perkins said the only reason she had watched Kansas City’s victory over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC championship game was because Swift was in attendance — they were planning to watch the Super Bowl.
“It’s really sweet to see how many Swiftie fans are bonding with their football friends,” Brown said.
And the Taylor Swift Society will be as interested as anyone in the potential spectacle of Swift disembarking from her private plane in Las Vegas, possibly just hours before kickoff. Odds suggest she will be wearing a black top at the airport, because you can bet on that, too.
“I think she’ll keep the black, but also maybe some white to keep with the theme?” Bennet said, referencing the color scheme of Swift’s new album and her dress from the Grammys. “White top with black leggings is always a good airplane look.”